Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Wow! This beautiful picture by Menno Welling, an archaeologist with Catholic University in Malawi.
Heavenly and looking so cool,calm and collected. Myths has it that a "lucky" one would see an elderly man with white hair and a small beard in the pool. Others talk of "ancestral spirits" leaving brand new robe-like clothes and material on the rocks way back then. Such encounters definitely no longer happen although some traditional healers believe a certain rock there is a door to a different astral realm housing a royal family and beautiful place. These beliefs versus science. What a contrast!!!
Some 80 km from the commercial city Blantyre, the highest peak of Malawi’s Mount Mulanje mountain, Sapitwa with a elevation of 3,002 metres is one that still puzzles locals with stories of people vanishing into thin air and tales of “angry spirits.”
These include Dutch Linda Pronk in 2003 and the tragic discovery of the body of Gabriel Buchmann, a Brazilian who went up the mountain without a tourist guide when it suddenly became ice cold.
Sapitwa is full of myths and beliefs it is home to ancestral spirits and a powerful “royal” family. Locals including traditional healers known as asing’anga amizimu believe spirits wrap targets in a white cloth and they somehow vanish and are “only released when the spirits allow.”
There are also stories of villagers mysteriously finding bananas and well-prepared food with strict rules when eaten.
However there are many scientific explanations to some of the disappearances including getting lost, falling into a ditch and being eaten by animals.
Much of the Massif consists of deep forested ravines and many individual peaks reaching 2500 metres including Chambe Peak, known as the West Face and longest rock climb in Africa.
The first European to report seeing the Massif was David Livingstone in 1859, but archaeological investigation reveals evidence of human visits to the Massif from the Stone Age onwards.
According to Hasting Maloya responsible for Environmental Education, Awareness and Communications for Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) it is historically recorded that Mulanje Mountain and its forest reserve was once home to the first Malawian settlers.
“Recorded history indicates that the inhabitants in the mountains were dwarf people locally known as Amwandionerapati or Abathwa. It is said that they were a people with diminutive height who lived on hunting. The name Abathwa purely meant short people. However, it is said that the said people never liked being called or referred to as being short.”
Menno Welling, Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Malawi who happens to be an archaeologist
in 2008 discovered tools from the Iron age and made an interesting Rain Shrine discovery at Dziwe la Nkhalamba,(swimming pool for the elderly).
For many years Malawians had believed it is a graveyard or place where “witches” and “wizards” play. Welling uprooted beautiful clay pots and beads in the area proving a rain ritual.
Villagers also tell tales of elderly people and clothes being found at the pool many years ago with sighting an old man with white hair being considered good luck. These days people don’t believe such things and the pool is a major tourist attraction with many swimming there.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I held my breath as the bald and toothless driver manouvered the crooked steering wheel as if he was playing a video game.I literally could see the tarmac in holes as I looked down as the piece of scrap increased speed. The shocks were gone and the nuts on the makeshift seats loose.
As I looked up, the conducter's unshaved armpits was a few inches from my face his unbathed body stinking, his backside hanging out the window as he stood on the journey to hell.
There was no time to enjoy the beauty outside as I silently recited the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers as I clutched on to my red rosary fearing for my dear life! Wondering I was if we would make it to our destination as the driver with a suspected knife scar healed wound on the back of his neck changed gears in what looked like an automatic vehicle!
You guessed it, I was the first one out of that minibus imposter at the stage in Blantre, panting and walking slowly to give a chance for my heart to slow down.
HIV positive sex workers are still actively plying the trade in Blantrye, Malawi to buy food, clothes and pay rent.
My undercover investigations in Chilomoni, Bangwe and Mbayani show an alarming number of HIV positive sex-workers on Anti-retroviral (ARVs) treatment still plying the streets with girls as young as 14 especially orphans joining the sex industry.
Young men are also servicing gay and bi-sexual men after “cruising” in lodges and hotels.
An estimated 70 percent of commercial sex workers are believed to be HIV positive, a potential risk for spreading the virus although Malawi reduced the HIV prevalence rate to 12 percent surveys indicate.
Natasha (not real name) like others told me she is tired of being a hooker and loitering near bars, rest houses and street corners. She bemoaned lacking sufficient funds to start a business and feed her son.
She only went as far as Standard 6 in school and lives in fear of being arrested by police for rogue and vagabond.
Many sex-workers attribute poverty as the reason for “selling sex“ even while infected.
Investigations show that some commercial sex workers who became terminally ill last year with a CD4 count way below 200 are now back in business and on ARVs.
Caleb Ng’ombo behind an NGO called People Serving Girls at Risk agrees with calls to criminalise deliberate spreading of the HIV virus while also looking at contributing factors such as poverty.
Criminal transmission trials have been held in many countries and those arrested for deliberately spreading HIV include a Malawian asylum to the United Kingdom jailed for 10 years.
Blantyre Child Justice Court magistrate Esmie Tembenu has since called for government to establish a reformatory centre for girls since those in conflict with the law are usually associated with prostitution.
She observed that offences of the girl-child are usually associated with prostitution which needs intensive rehabilitation and counselling for them to change.
Tracing footsteps to lead me home
Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.
I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.
Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.
I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star.
.....watch this space.